After a very frustrating and unnerving week of work I had actual doctors orders to get out and ride. Early in the week I attempted to recruit every rider in the area for a Saturday morning session in the cold air. Out of the thirteen riders I reached out to via the Stravasphere four were willing to ride at 7:30 am on a twenty-four degree morning. Bill, Ben, George, and YOUNG Evan were the crew for the day. Darren and Dr. Tom made special guest appearances at the start which heightened the moment. With the size and strength of Bill, George and Ben I almost wished it was windy so I could be shielded by them the whole ride.
The ride at hand was a big loop out of Keene up Concord Hill, across to Sullivan Hill, then would proceed through Nelson, Harrisville, and Dublin before screaming back to Keene via Route 101. My plan was that the three early categorized climbs would warm our cores and that by the time we were into Nelson that we would be warm for the remainder of the ride.
I took the early climbs extremely easy. I spun up Concord Hill alongside Bill while the group fractured behind. Riding in the cold is a different animal than a warm weather ride. Everybody reacts to the cold and being bundled in layers differently. I for one typically feel like I am going to vomit when I am bundled in my extra thick Craft Nordic jacket. We regrouped over the summit while George and Bill marveled at how they had never met one and other. On Sullivan Hill my bundle effect really reared its ugly head and I felt extra sick. My heart rate did not want anything to do with the severity of the grade and rocketed into the upper 180s. Given that I have had three weeks of low intensity trainer riding as my backing it was no surprise that my body was shocked by the hill.
With the major climbs behind us we were able to establish a pretty good rhythm on the ride. I had promised an easy ride so I was being extra careful not to hammer on the climbs or smooth surfaces. Through the Mill Yard in Harrisville we regrouped and had an exciting decent out of town. On the long climb to 101 George and Bill really found a good rhythm and the three of us climbed in the glorious air. The temperature had risen to around forty degrees with no wind. The crisp air couple with the great company and the buzz of the ride reminded why I love riding my bike.
We regrouped at the Dublin school and I reiterated the importance of clean riding on 101. We had been a pretty sloppy group to that point so I wanted to make sure that we were riding single file on 101 looking for elbows and checking blind spots. With Ben back in the fold after enduring the climbs I knew we were setup for a good ride into Keene. Ben is an absolute beast on the descents and knows how to ride a bike fast in a group. I was really looking forward to sucking his wheel at speed! Within a mile Ben and I had separated from the group. Young Evan blew up early and was quickly dropped. Kids got a lot of talent if he can hang around that long in this group. Bill lost a wheel and the headwinds that hadn't been present all day prevented him from getting back on to my wheel. George was slowly making his way down the climb watching his own lines to make up for his vision. Eventually Ben and I dropped back and picked up George as we entered Marlborough.
Things were about to get SUPER EXCITING!!!!
As we passed Lee Mt. Fuji, a popular local Asian restaurant, Ben was looking for a rest. Just as he started to pull wide a massive mirror brushed past my shoulder. Ben quickly tucked back in as the girth of a massive RV trailer began to pass us. As he cleared us initially I was mad that he didn't give us more room. After about eight to ten seconds I said the hell with it and jumped full gas to catch his draft. Marlborough to Keene on 101 is an awesome ride and if you catch the right draft you can do some serious damage. The attack off the front was a true race pace move and after about twenty seconds I caught the slipstream of the trailer. Thirty to forty seconds later I was pleasantly surprised to see Ben pull up on my shoulder. Through town at about thirty mph I informed Ben that I was going to try to make it all the way to Keene in the draft. A distance of four miles on a road with speed limits that range from forty to fifty mph. As we left the downtown of Marlborough behind I could hear the supercharger on the large diesel truck begin to whine. I knew it was go time and quickly shifted up through the stack. Suddenly Ben and I were traveling well above forty mph on the flats both cranking 53x12 under full power. I desperately wanted to look at my heart rate but I didn't dare take my eyes off the break light of the trailer. Time and time again the supercharger would whine and the trailer would inch away only to be countered by my turbos. Ben dropped off at the correctional facility, when we reconvened later Ben shared that he just could spin his legs that fast any longer. Onto a downhill stretch the trailer again tried to get away but I would not relent. I would quickly jump out of the saddle and hammer to close down the gap. I was so excited in the moment and found myself screaming out loud a few times at the awesomeness of the buzz. I was within a mile of Keene proper and knew that I only needed to keep the turbos hot for another ninety seconds. Past the old Stone Arch I finally relented and pulled into the shoulder swimming in the chaos of the all the messages my brain was sorting. As the cars that were following me passed they were cheering and sheer astonishment. One gentlemen almost seemed as excited as I was and was in full fist pumping mode! I sat and soaked in the sun on the guardrail while the group re-formed. I could not take the smile off of my face and couldn't wait to see the data from that stretch. (See Strava link above. Hint it is the segment at 621 watts)
From there we easily spun through West Keene and ended back at the hospital. A solid beginning to what I hope becomes a regular weekend tradition. There is even a rumor that if enough riders come out that Mary will start baking goodies for us to share afterwards! Who know maybe there will even be coffee!
Good work everyone!